YouTube has come a long way since its original launch in early 2005. Initially meant as a video sharing service between friends, the popularity of YouTube was spurred by two major public events: the Janet Jackson Super Bowl incident in 2004 and the devastating tsunami that occurred on December 26 of that same year.
Nowadays, YouTube hosts everything from full-length films to educational content for children – and it's the latter that is drawing the attention of the critics. In fact, YouTube is at the center of an investigation by the U.S government and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) concerning the possible violations of children's privacy.
According to the complaint, YouTube, which is now owned by Google, failed to protect the privacy of children who use the popular website. Additionally, critics say that YouTube collected data regarding their usage – a practice that is expressly forbidden according to the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA, which was signed into law in 1998.
In fact, the latest series of complaints are not the only allegations again YouTube and Google. David Monahan, a member of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, was recently quoted as saying: "YouTube’s business model puts profits first, and kids’ well-being last. When we filed a COPPA complaint with the FTC a year ago, Google’s response was ridiculous — that YouTube is not a site for kids, when it’s actually the most popular children’s site on the Internet. We hope the FTC will act soon, and require YouTube to move all kids’ content to YouTube Kids with no marketing, no autoplay or recommendations, and strong protections for children’s privacy."
A spokeswoman with YouTube wouldn't comment on the FTC's investigation, she did shed some light on some of YouTube's policies by saying: "We consider lots of ideas for improving YouTube and some remain just that — ideas. Others, we develop and launch, like our restrictions to minors live-streaming or updated hate speech policy."
To that extent, YouTube has been making some sweeping changes. Firstly, they recently banned hate speech against protected groups, including minorities, veterans, and women. They've even banned content that denies the occurrence of such well-document atrocities in history – such as the Holocaust.
Moreover, YouTube is already considering an alternative solution to solve their latest problem. Using the brand YouTube Kids, the tech giant hopes to build a sister brand that is specifically meant for children. Not only will this make it easier to moderate the online content they have access to, but it also helps ensure that these children are seeing relevant videos that are age-appropriate.
In addition, they've already banned minors for participating in online live streams without the presence of an adult and they've also disabled comments on all videos that feature minors. They've even made some adjustments to the internal algorithms that provide recommendations once a video is done playing.
All in all, it seems that YouTube is taking these accusations seriously. Even more importantly, they seem to be willing to do the right thing and correct any wrongs from the past.
YouTube Facing Criticism Over Children's Videos and Content
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